Jeffries taps Schiff, Swalwell for House Intel despite McCarthy vow to block

Washington — House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries formally nominated California Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to serve on the House Intelligence Committee, even as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has pledged to block their reappointments to the panel.

Jeffries, the House minority leader, sent a letter to McCarthy on Saturday officially recommending the two California Democrats for spots on the committee, citing their "decades of distinguished leadership providing oversight" of the intelligence community and careers as prosecutors before serving in Congress.

But he noted McCarthy's intent to deny the seats to Schiff and Swalwell and said such a step would "break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations."

"The denial of seats to duly elected members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee," Jeffries wrote in the letter, obtained by CBS News.

After the Democratic-led House voted during the last Congress to strip GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona of their committee assignments, Republicans have vowed to do the same to Democrats, targeting Schiff, Swalwell and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Greene lost her committee assignments after extremist and racist comments she posted to social media before her election to Congress surfaced. Gosar was censured by the House and removed from his committees after he posted an edited anime video to his social media accounts depicting violence against New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and President Biden.

Both votes to strip Greene and Gosar of their committee assignments were bipartisan. With Republicans in control of the House for the new Congress, the two have both been installed on House panels by GOP leaders.

Unlike the 20 permanent committees in the House, the Intelligence panel is a select committee, which gives McCarthy, as speaker, the authority to appoint or refuse members to serve on the panel.

Citing a "new standard" of removing lawmakers from the opposing party from their assigned committees, McCarthy pledged last year he would deny Schiff and Swalwell spots on the Intelligence Committee if Republicans gained the House majority.

In the case of Schiff, who chaired the panel during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, McCarthy claimed he "openly lied" to the public about the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump's 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sparked his first impeachment proceedings.

Schiff told the Washington Post he has never met the whistleblower.

In Swalwell's case, McCarthy's criticisms center around a December 2020 Axios article about a Chinese national who helped fundraise for Swalwell's 2014 reelection bid. The woman, identified as Christine Fang, is a suspected Chinese intelligence operative, according to Axios.

Swalwell's office told Axios at the time that he provided information about the woman to the FBI and had not seen her in six years.

In his letter to McCarthy, Jeffries said the votes to remove Greene and Gosar from their committees do not serve as "precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, given that they have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior."

Jeffries also noted that Republican Rep. George Santos of New York, who he called a "serial fraudster," has been placed on the House Small Business and Science Committees.

"The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress," he wrote.

Santos is facing scrutiny from federal and local investigators, and several of his Republican colleagues have called on him to resign amid growing questions about his professional experience, background and finances.

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